• United States
Jon Gold
Senior Writer

COVID-19 to delay enterprise 5G adoption

News Analysis
Apr 01, 20202 mins

A key industry standard for the development of new-radio 5G will remain unreleased for at least two more months, holding back the availability of 5G products for the enterprise.

4g versus 5g horizon sunrise
Credit: Dushesina/Getty Images

Enterprise adoption of 5G will be delayed because the 3GPP standards body has been sidelined by the COVID-19 outbreak and can’t finish its work on a critical standard for at least two months, according to ABI Research.

The standard in question, known as Release 16, addresses latency standards and mandating 99.999% uptime, said ABI Research analyst Leo Gergs. It was due for release in March and will now be delayed until at least June.

“Considering that an hour of machine downtime costs each manufacturer on average $300,000, this underlines the importance a high reliability on availability of the communication network,” he said.

As a result, companies that need a modernized cellular-network infrastructure will be forced to rely on various combinations of other technologies – 4G/LTE, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth – for different use cases. That’s a workable solution, said Gergs, but it’s less desirable than 5G given the additional work needed to ensure interoperability among those different standards. On the other hand, 5G by itself could fulfill those needs.

Moreover, the possibility of a general economic recession in response to the pandemic could severely shrink IT budgets in the coming months, making the potential customer base for new 5G technology commensurately smaller.

It’s a particular pain point for industries that could really use enterprise 5G in their efforts to combat the coronavirus and its economic impact, such as agriculture and medicine. Accurate remote diagnostic options require high-definition video, and 5G is well-suited to providing the requisite bandwidth. Gergs said telehealth systems helped combat the COVID-19 outbreak in China, both through remote consultation at makeshift hospitals and off-site communication with isolated patients. In agriculture, 5G technology could provide a far greater degree of automation and lessen dependence on manual labor, which may be scarce.

“[In] the UK, for example, farmers and agricultural enterprises could lose up to a third of highly perishable fruit and vegetables,” said Gergs, “if these will not be harvested in time because of a shortage of seasonal workers that usually help during the harvesting season.”